Historic Anglo-Saxon artefacts could go on display in Sussex after a hidden graveyard was discovered by treasure hunters.

Bob White and Cliff Smith, who are members of the Eastbourne District Metal Detecting Club, stumbled upon the Saxon cemetery while metal-detecting on farmland outside Lewes As soon as they realised the importance of the site they sought advice from the police and local archaeologists who decided to excavate the graves immediately after seeking permission from the landowner.

Three graves were uncovered, one holding the remains of a man and two of a woman.

One of the females was buried with a bronze bowl which still had a working handle as well as gilded brooches and silver belt decorations.

The male was buried with a spear and shield and this with other artefacts suggested the family was relatively wealthy and of a high status within their local community.

The remains, which were uncovered in October, have been taken to English Heritage’s laboratories in Portsmouth for analysis and conservation but it is hoped they will eventually go on public display at at the Barbican House Museum in Lewes.

Paul Roberts, English Heritage’s inspector of ancient monuments, said: “Anglo-Saxon burial grounds are one of our principal sources of evidence about early Anglo-Saxon people and their way of life.

“The site near Lewes has been protected as a scheduled monument in recognition of its importance and to help preserve it in future.

“Our understanding of the graves is considerably better for the careful and exemplary approach taken by the two local metal-detectorists who discovered the site and its subsequent excavation by county council staff and unpaid local archaeologists.”

Under the terms of the Treasure Act the pair may be entitled to a reward, but Mr White said: “Mine and Cliff's name will go down in the history books. To find the unknown is reward enough. That's priceless.”

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